Column: Taylor Kornieck’s return will help the Wave — and maybe the U.S. World Cup team, too

Column: Taylor Kornieck's return will help the Wave — and maybe the U.S. World Cup team, too

Taylor Kornieck’s return to practice this week was considered good news for not only the Wave, but perhaps the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team as well.

It’s unclear if she’ll play Saturday night in Houston, but this much is clear: Kornieck is a force when fit and in shape.

The 6-foot fluid midfielder and San Diego Surf alum led the National Women’s Soccer League in aerials won before suffering an abdominal injury four weeks ago. She is adept with both her head and feet, uses her length well on defense and pairs well with Wave forward Alex Morgan, a former Orlando Pride teammate.

On corner kicks and other aerials, as many as three defenders have surrounded Kornieck at once, whose height makes her a differentiating candidate for the US national team.

Kornieck, 24, made his national team debut last summer and helped Mexico’s run to the CONCACAF W title. After the Wave’s semi-final playoff loss in October, in which she scored the team’s only goal, she played with the US national club in two more exhibitions. American coach Vlatko Andonovski was intrigued enough to have her play in New Zealand in January. She logged 45 minutes in the Americans’ first game of 2023 and returned in the second game to score in the 5–0 win over the Kiwis.

She has recovered from injury and is set to compete for a spot on the World Cup roster going into the quadrennial tournament, July 20 to August 20 in Australia and New Zealand.

Houston is where the Wave played the franchise’s first official match, and the 1-0 win on May 1, 2022 proved to be a foretaste. Reliable defense and coach Casey Stoney’s tactics paid off. The defense, which would finish the season tied for second in fewest goals allowed, posted its first of nine shutouts. Two of Stoney’s late-game replacements, Mia Gyau and Katie Johnson, contributed to Jodie Taylor’s goal in the 86th minute.

Gyau is still with the Wave. Johnson plays for Angel City. Taylor has played six games this season for Arsenal in his native England.

The ninth-ranked Houston Dash (2-2-3, nine points) are coming off a 2-1 home win on May 12 against undefeated Portland. The Thorns looked worn down in the second half, an outcome the Wave avoided in Houston last year. If humid weather prevails throughout the match at 5:30 p.m., the fourth-place Wave (4-3-0, 12 points) may need a second-half infusion of energy comparable to last year.

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